Merton H. Miller: Nobel Prize
in Economics Recipient-1990
by Seymour “Sy” Brody
Merton Howard Miller was an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1990, which he shared with Harry M. Markowitz and William F. Shape for their pioneering work in the theory of financial economics.
He was born on May 16, 1923, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the only child of Sylvia and Joel Miller. His father was an attorney and a graduate of Harvard University, in 1916. Merton followed in his father’s footsteps by going to Harvard and graduating with an A.B. degree, magna cum laude, in 1943. Unlike his father, he preferred economics to becoming an attorney.
During World War II, Miller worked as an economist in the Division of Tax Research of the U. S. Treasury Department. Afterward, he joined the Division of Research and Statistics of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. In 1949, he returned to graduate school of John Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his doctorate degree in 1952.
His first academic appointment was in 1952 when he became a visiting Assistant Lecturer at the London School of Economics, 1952-1953. He then went to Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Melon University). Among his colleagues here were Nobel Laureates Herbert Simon, 1978 and Franco Modigliani, 1985. In 1958, Miller with the others, published their first joint M&M paper.
Miller left Carnegie and joined the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago, in 1961, where he remained until he retired, in 1993. He spent a year at the University of Louvain in Belgium, 1966-1967. When he returned, Miller was chosen to The Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor where his work was focused on finance.
Miller wrote and coauthored eight books. In 1975, he became a fellow of the Econometric Society and in 1976, he was president of the American Finance Association. He served as a public director on the Chicago Board of Trade, 1983-1985.
It was a terrible blow to Miller, when his first wife, Eleanor, died in 1969, leaving him with three young daughters.
Merton H. Miller died on June 3, 2000, in Chicago, Illinois.
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